<strong>LOGAN—</strong> One game against an FCS opponent does not a season make, but the Utah State University football team certainly lived up to the preseason hype Thursday night as the Aggies demolished Southern Utah 34-3 for their first season-opening win since 1997.
“I talked about the youth before the game, and there’s a lot of youthful mistakes that we need to correct if we’re going to continue to get victories,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “It’s a great win for us without question. A lot of young men played … which will help us to evaluate a lot of different positions.”
As was anticipated, sophomore Chuckie Keeton got the start for the Aggies and promptly completed 7-of-7 passes in the first quarter for 138 yards – including touchdown passes of 48 and 35 yards.
“Chuck Jacobs and Matt Austin in my opinion are tremendous receivers with great ball skills, and big plays waiting to happen if you can find your spots in the right position,” Andersen said. “Early on we were able to do that, and that needs to be an identity for us … we need to throw the ball effectively to reach our goals for the season this year.”
On the night, Keeton finished 22-of-26 for a career best 304 yards to go along with the two touchdowns, and one interception. Keeton also rushed the ball six times for 15 yards, however, he only graded himself as a “B” despite his career high.
“One of those completions was to the DB, so that’s how I see it and that’s why I say a B,” Keeton said. “If I eliminate the turnover then it would definitely be like a B+, but I also had some missed assignments on some things that I can control, which is something that I can change.”
As well as Keeton played, the story of the night may have been running back Joe Hill. The speedy sophomore juked, jived, and bounced off tacklers on his way to a 119 yard three touchdown night.
“Tonight was a great night. Offensively we came out very well in the beginning and then towards the middle we kind of hurt us on penalties,” Hill said. “The linemen blocked very well tonight, made holes, and I just used my ability – just one cut and used my speed.”
Following the early passing attack, The Aggies focused more on their ground game and Hill scored his first TD with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter. Hill’s TD capped a 21-point first quarter by the Aggies, as USU looked like it was just going to run away with it.
USU’s defense was equally impressive in the first quarter as the Thunderbirds did not gain a first down in the quarter. Preseason All-American quarterback Brad Sorensen did not start well either as he went 0-for-5 in the first quarter. The Aggies outgained SUU 240-19 in the first quarter.
“I thought we played well defensively. We didn’t get as many turnovers as we would have liked to, but overall I thought we did a good job of stopping the run and putting them in situations where they needed to throw the ball,” senior safety McKade Brady.
The second quarter was a different story, however, as the Aggies slowed down and the Thunderbirds put some drives together. While it wasn’t great, SUU more than tripled its first quarter offensive output and was able to get on the board with a 22-yard field goal by Colton Cook.
After the offensive outburst in the first, USU was held scoreless in the second quarter, but still took a 21-3 lead into the intermission.
The third quarter started off much the same as the first quarter for the Aggies. USU drove the ball 77 yards in eight plays, and Hill scored his second TD of the game on a 19-yard sprint to put the Ags up 28-7.
From there, the Aggies continued to pour it on as Hill added his third score of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter for the final 34-3 margin. However, the Aggies did have some bad news, as senior QB Adam Kennedy took a big hit shortly after relieving Keeton. No information on Kennedy’s injury was immediately available, but he was seen riding a cart to the locker room holding his left shoulder or arm in pain.
About the only areas Utah State really struggled in were penalties and turnovers. The Aggies were whistled 10 times for a total of 120 yards, and also lost the turnover battle 1-2.
“We’ve got a lot to clean up, and those are two very negatives,” Andersen said about the penalties and turnovers.
The Aggies will have plenty of time to make those corrections as they stay home to take on in-state rival Utah on Friday, Sept. 7, on national TV. That game is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
<em>Photos by Craig Peterson</em>